of the meeting of
The Novel Club of Cleveland
June 5, 2007
Louise Mooney and John Gabel were our hosts at the Westwood Country Club for the final meeting of the 2006-2007 year of the Novel Club. It was held on June 5, 2007.
Despite the fact that the meeting was held in the Great Plains, members from the East side attended in considerable force but circled their cars in the event of an Indian attack. The Manuels who had to come from the Easternmost part of the county bragged that the trip took only 45 minutes. This should prove reassuring to those who were unable to come or who were too terrified to cross the river.
Guests included the aforementioned John Gabel, Karen Kirby, Hal Douthit, and Jane Hammond.
Following the reading of the minutes of the previous meeting an announcement was made that Natalie Dworken, widow of our late member Harvey Dworken is currently hospitalized at University Hospitals.
Mary Douthit presented the treasurer’ s report and announced that our poke had swollen to over $800 with four members still to ante-up.
The duties of the Archivist are to be split between James Saunders and Ham Emmons.
George Weimer, presiding over our group for the last time as President thanked the group for the privilege of serving and was rewarded with a fully deserved and enthusiastic round of applause.
The Biographical paper on Robert Wilson, author of A Small Death in Lisbon, had been written by Andy Fabens who was unable to be present. It was read ably by George Downing. Wilson was born in 1957. His father had been an RAF pilot during the second World War. Wilson graduated from Oxford with a degree in English but didn’t start writing until he was 34 years old. He has traveled extensively and has for many years lived in Portugal, the scene of this novel. Wilson was awarded the Golden Dagger Award of the British Crime Writers Association for best crime novel of the year for this book. He is the author of seven other novels.
Art Stupay presented the critical paper and he was exceedingly critical, questioning whether the book even fulfilled the requirements for a novel.
He cited the lack of character development, and the formulaic presentation of guys as hard and the women as sexy and dumb. Since the setting requires a locale far removed and alluring Lisbon would do as well as any. He was struck with the portrayal of Louise Madrugada as a sexy babe with a PhD. in Economics. He assured us that this would never happen in real life. Nor would a police inspector be so careless as to have an affair with a witness. He described it as a television show reduced to print. The very large cast of characters seemed excessive and the numerous plots, sub-plots and the conjoining of the two main ones, the murder of a young girl, and the search for Wolfram were all festooned with sex and violence.
The discussion was almost as violent. “More sex than Nabokov”, “Doesn’t pull the strands together”, “Doesn’t elevate or inform”, “Would make a good movie”, “No likable characters”, “Pornographic”, “Not pornographic”, “Good read, couldn’t put it down”, “Couldn’t pick it up”, “Felt sorry for some of the characters”, “What was the meaning of the ‘Small Death’ in the title?”, “Did it refer to an orgasm – le petit mort, or to the death of an insignificant person?”
Yada, yada, yada. Perhaps more heat than light but a most vigorous discussion.
The final event of the evening was a vote for the best and worst books we have read during the previous season. The worst, receiving an almost unanimous vote was Woman in the Dark by Dashiell Hammett, while the winner in a much closer contest was The Fall by Simon Mawer, a book which by the way had as much kinky sex as A Small Death in Lisbon.
So endeth the reign of good King George Weimer. Long live the Queen, Gail Newman!
Arthur J. Newman